This app lets you run your own metro network

Places to go, polygons to see. Image: Dinosaur Polo Club.

There have been many games designed to appeal to would be planners and politicians. The Sims, with its opportunities for absolute control over people and buildings; SimCity, in which you could build and run an entire metropolis.

But those who always felt this nonsense about people and power grids got in the way of the important stuff, the game for you has finally arrived. Mini Metro, due to be launched onto the app stores in December, strips city-related gaming down to its barest, colour-coded metro line bones. Here’s the trailer:

The concept is summed up by the game’s tagline: “Keep the city moving”. Some little polygons want to move between some big polygons; your job is to put lines in place to help them. Manage the network badly, make those shapes end up late for work, and you lose.

The full game, developed by Dinosaur Polo Club, won’t be out on mobile for a few months yet. But an early version is already available to play online or download it from Steam, so we gave it a go. It starts off easy enough:

minimetro easy.png

Initially, your capacity to build starts is pretty limited. As the weeks pass, though, you can add more lines, more tunnels and more metro cars. But the number of passengers using the network also increases with time, as indicated by the number in the bottom right hand corner. And so, surprisingly rapidly, the game gets harder.

Before you know it, you’ve created a bewildering tangle of stations, passengers, stops and tunnels. We ended up with this efficient looking network:


And then... oh.

game over 2.png

Comments on the game’s forum suggest there’s already fierce debate about whether the game is too tough. “The game gets too hard too soon,” complains one user. Not so, said another: “You can cheat by using emergency shuttle lines.”

The final version will let you control the metro systems of 5-10 “playable cities”, including London, Paris and New York, allowing you to enact all those improvements you wish you could make to the real-life networks in your city. You might even find yourself sympathising with your city’s hard-pressed transport authorities.


Covid-19 is highlighting cities' unequal access to green space

In the UK, Londoners are most likely to rely on their local park for green space, and have the best access to parks. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

As coronavirus lockdowns ease, people are flooding back to parks – but not everyone has easy access to green space in their city.

Statistics from Google show that park attendance in countries across the globe has shot up as people have been allowed to move around their cities again.

This is especially true in urban areas, where densely populated neighbourhoods limit the size of private green space – meaning residents have to go to the park to get in touch with nature. Readers from England can use our interactive tool below to find out how much green space people have access to in their area, and how it compares to the rest of the country.


Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement Monday that people are allowed to mingle in parks and gardens with groups of up to six people was partially following what people were doing already.

Data from mobile phones show people have been returning to parks across the UK, and also across Europe, as weather improves and lockdown eases.

People have been returning to parks across the world

Stay-at-home requirements were eased in Italy on 4 May, which led to a flood of people returning to parks.

France eased restrictions on 1 May, and the UK eased up slightly on 13 May, allowing people to sit down in public places so long as they remain socially distanced.

Other countries have seen park attendance rise without major easing of lockdown – including Canada, Spain, and the US (although states there have individual rules and some have eased restrictions).

In some countries, people never really stopped going to parks.

Authorities in the Netherlands and Germany were not as strict as other countries about their citizens visiting local parks during lockdown, while Sweden has famously been avoiding placing many restrictions on people’s daily lives.

There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that access to green space has major benefits for public health.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Exeter found that spending time in the garden is linked to similar benefits for health and wellbeing as living in wealthy areas.

People with access to a private garden also had higher psychological wellbeing, and those with an outdoor space such as a yard were more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than those without access to outdoor space. 

Separate UK research has found that living with a regular view of a green space provides health benefits worth £300 per person per year.

Access is not shared equally, however, which has important implications for equality under lockdown, and the spread of disease.

Statistics from the UK show that one in eight households has no garden, making access to parks more important.

There is a geographic inequality here. Londoners, who have the least access to private gardens, are most likely to rely on their local park for green space, and have the best access to parks. 

However the high population in the capital means that on the whole, green space per person is lower – an issue for people living in densely populated cities everywhere.

There is also an occupational inequality.

Those on low pay – including in what are statistically classed as “semi-skilled” and “unskilled” manual occupations, casual workers and those who are unemployed – are almost three times as likely as those in managerial, administrative, professional occupations to be without a garden, meaning they rely more heavily on their local park.

Britain’s parks and fields are also at significant risk of development, according to new research by the Fields in Trust charity, which shows the number of people living further than a 10-minute walk from a public park rising by 5% over the next five years. That loss of green spaces is likely to impact disadvantaged communities the most, the researchers say.

This is borne out by looking at the parts of the country that have private gardens.

The least deprived areas have the largest gardens

Though the relationship is not crystal clear, it shows at the top end: Those living in the least deprived areas have the largest private green space.

Although the risk of catching coronavirus is lower outdoors, spending time in parks among other people is undoubtedly more risky when it comes to transmitting or catching the virus than spending time in your own outdoor space. 

Access to green space is therefore another example – along with the ability to work from home and death rates – of how the burden of the pandemic has not been equally shouldered by all.

Michael Goodier is a data reporter at New Statesman Media Group, and Josh Rayman is a graphics and data visualisation developer at New Statesman Media Group.